Well, my loyal readers, this is the end. You have followed me on my journeys for the past five years. You were with me in South Korea, where I began my expatriation and initial contract teaching English as a Second Language.
I brought you along to the capital city of Turkiye, where I immersed myself in Islamic culture for the first time and taught at a conservative, Muslim, all-boys high school.
You followed me to rural China – the heart of communism on earth – and its 1.5 billion people, with its factory worker mentality and lack of personal freedoms and individuality.
Next, I explored the wonderful continent of Europe, and took you with me as I not only taught at an Opus Dei high school in Pamplona, Spain, but also managed to squeeze in visits to 10 other nations on the Continent during my year living there.
The fifth year came with unknown challenges and unexpected obstacles as I first volunteered for 6 months at a Buddhist monastery on top of a mountain outside the city of Kathmandu in the rural and impoverished country of Nepal, and then spent 2017 (so far) living on the continent of Africa while teaching for an American NGO in the predominately desert – and very hot and humid – country of Tunisia.
And with that… the adventure is over.
Or is it?
One chapter is at an end, yes. But another chapter is just beginning. I am officially suspending my campaign as an ESL educator for upcoming the 2017-18 academic year and will be…
…Going, going, Back, back, to the U S of A!!!
That’s right! We are coming home!
My wife, Jen, has accepted a position teaching at a rural, Native Alaskan village school. It was her dream to live in a small village and be accepted into a tight-knit community. So, we will be relocating back into the land of zip codes and Amazon deliveries, of phone calls to friends and family, of English as a Primary Language… but we won’t be returning to the contiguous 48 states (not yet at any rate).
We’re moving to Alaska (but we won’t be living in an igloo)!
The village of K—- (meaning: where three rivers meet) is located 30 miles north of the Arctic Circle and boasts a total population of around 400 people (about 130 students in the school, which is PreK-12). The village was founded several centuries ago by the Inupiat Eskimos. The school is 97% Native American (the only non-natives are probably the imported ‘white’ teachers from other states – Alaska has been having difficulties – as they themselves say, ‘growing our own teachers‘). The nearest ‘city’ to K—-, and what Alaskans refer to as a hub, is Kotzebue. Kotzebue is located at the northern tip of a peninsula that juts out into the Pacific Ocean from the state’s very crooked coastline.
As I write this blog, I haven’t yet arrived or traveled to the Last Frontier. So these are hardly my first impressions. What they are, however, is nothing more than Internet research and my limited understand of life in the bush country. I’m sure there will be many more articles about Arctic village life to come.
The first thing you have to realize about the ‘bush‘ is what that word technically means. The bush is any area – sparsely populated by villages – in Alaska that you cannot travel to by car. The villages aren’t connected by roads (Roads? Where we’re going we don’t need… Roads!). The only way to get to these rural villages is to fly there on small 5-20 seat prop planes, or – when the weather is nicer – boat up rivers or along the coast. As you can probably imagine, in the cold and dark winter months, the waterways freeze over, making travel all but impossible save for planes (and even severe storms will cut us off completely from the outside world).
When we want to travel, we first have to take a teeny-tiny plane to Kotzebue and then transfer to a slightly larger plane that will take us to Anchorage. From Anchorage, we can use websites like travelocity, skyscanner, and cheaptickets to purchase our plane fare to the east coast to visit our friends and family. To receive shipments and packages, the boxes will first make their way to Anchorage and then get delivered by plane to Kotzebue, followed by the various villages of the region, where we’ll have to walk to the airport or post office when we want to pick them up. To the best of my knowledge, getting things in and out of the bush – including ourselves – will be a very expensive and time-consuming affair. It’s my hope that the experience will make these inconveniences worthwhile.
Okay, okay… I lied. It’s not the end.
As long as you keep reading, I’ll keep writing. Trust me, though. You’re going to want to stay with me. Our Alaskan adventure is proving to be the most interesting and unique of anything we’ve done so far. I can’t wait!
Until Next Time…